If you are looking for a civilized vacation, look no further. With the most appealing pool area around, an atmosphere of relaxed understated elegance throughout, uniformly excellent rooms and friendly service, this is almost certainly the best bet in Waikiki.
For a special occasion, we sprang for an ocean front room with a spectacular view of Diamond Head. It was worth the $760 a night price (including breakfast). But you can save as much as $200 a night and still have a luxurious room with a pleasant view. Except for the pricey suites, all the rooms are very similar, with the rate mainly determined by the view. Even the cheapest rooms overlook beautiful gardens. Here "garden view" is not a euphemism for "parking-lot view."
The rooms aren't glitzy or lavish, but they are comfortable and tasteful. Every room has a sofa (a bit small) and terrace (lanai in Hawaii-speak). Closet space is ample and the bathrooms are luxurious. We appreciated having a separate stall shower as well tub. The bed was superb.
The beach immediately in front of the hotel is skimpy. But the spacious pool area is perhaps the hotel's greatest plus. During our week's stay, there was never once a shortage of desirable lounge chairs. There is only one pool, but it is large and beautiful. This contrasts with the surprisingly small pools and cramped pool areas at some of the Halekulani's upscale competitors nearby.
There is nothing even remotely like a water slide at this hotel. The lack of such facilities may make this a poor choice for family with older children. But there were a number of small kids -- almost all beautifully behaved. This may be one place where all the children really are "above average."
We usually had breakfast at the informal "House Without a Key" restaurant, which serves a nice buffet in a pleasant indoor/outdoor setting. We tried the special Sunday brunch, really a buffet lunch, at the somewhat more formal "Orchids" restaurant. Except for the excellent desserts, the food wasn't fabulous, but it was good -- as it should be at $57 a head. We dined once at the top restaurant, La Mer. The room and the ocean view were spectacular. The food was better than most resort food, but wasn't distinguished enough to justify the $110 minimum prix fixe.
There are many excellent dining options at various prices nearby. The branch of Nobu right across the street serves interesting Japanese (or sort-of-Japanese) food, though a hungry person would have to order lots of exquisite little plates to leave feeling full. We found the Italian restaurant Taormina a block or so away served very good food at fair prices. We thought the front tables were the most appealing. Il Lupino near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was also good for the price, though the service was slow. Half a block from the hotel a branch of the excellent ABC convenience-story chain offered surprisingly good take-out. A couple of times, we bought lunch there and enjoyed it on our lanai overlooking Waikiki Beach -- for under $10 a head.
The Halekulani's location couldn't be more convenient. Nearby branches of Hermes, Louis Vuitton and others should supply all your vacation necessities. The extensive local bus service took us all over town. (We found Chinatown very disappointing, but the Diamond Head excursion was spectacular.)
So, any quibbles? Yes. If you are dreaming of a romantic moonlit swim in the pool, forget it -- the pool closes about 6 p.m. Also, for some bizarre reason, there are no coffee pots in the rooms.
Other than that, go for it!